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article imageWorms munch nanoparticles to improve sensors

By Tim Sandle     Jan 8, 2017 in Science
Scientists have used tiny worms to digest nanoparticles wrapped around bacteria. The study has been run to see how cellular forces affect nanomedicine.
Nanomedicine is becoming a key part of medical practice, especially in the field of personalized medicine. Many researchers think by encasing medicines with nano-shells, medicines can be better directed to the site of an infection (specially tumors). In addition, the nanoparticles help to protect the medicine from being digested in the intestines or attacked by the body’s immune system. Two forms of nanomedicine that have been tested in mice are the use of gold nanoshells to help diagnose and treat cancer; and the use of with liposomes to deliver vaccines.
Since this is a developing field, there is a lack of information relating to how the nano-material alters when inside the body. To model this, one research group have turned to worms.
To do this nanoparticles have been developed with emit a light when they are shone at by an infrared laser. The glow emitted alters in color depending upon the surrounding pressure (the color changes from red to orange when there is a mechanical force from the range of nanonewtons to micronewton). This provides real-time data about the level of forces that the particles are subjected to once inside a living organism. This information will allow nanoparticles to be better developed to withstand different physical forces.
As Professor Jennifer Dionne, from Stanford University, explains: “Altered cellular-level forces underlie many disorders, including heart disease and cancer. This would be a nanoscale readout that you could use in vitro or in vivo to detect disease at a very early stage.”
The longer-term aim will be to study the effects of human cells on the nanoparticles. In the interim, the use of transparent worms allows researchers to visualize and measure what is happening in relation to the worm’s physiology. The insights have proved useful, showing how mechanical action inside the worm impacts on the particles. The researchers have used the data to generate ‘force maps.’
Further research will introduce mutations into the mix to see if variations in gene expression affect the nanoparticles. It is hoped this will increase medical understanding of digestive and related disorders, such as acid reflux or hernia formation. The findings have yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal.
More about Nanoparticles, Nanotechnology, nanosensor, Worms, Sensors
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